[Metal/Heavy] Iron Maiden – Number of the Beast 35th Anniversary

Today marks the 35th anniversary of Iron Maiden’s “Number of the Beast” release. 35 years and this beast has not any inch of its stamina and elegance. A damn good album it was, certainly one of my favorite from Iron Maiden by its consistency and its engaging lyrics. It was an 40 minutes beautiful album spanned over 8 tracks.
It starts with “Invaders” telling the story of Viking invaders ready to raid, loot and set ablaze. A sort of setting the path to what we refers as “Viking Metal” nowadays. It is followed by “Children of The Damned”, playing on one of the melodics that give the Iron Maiden sound, with engaging lyrics and remarkable Bruce storytelling. The third track, “The Prisoner” is directly inspired by a 60’s British TV series called “The Prisoner” in which people are trapped in a prison island, strapped from their name and referred as Numbers, with Number 6 being the main character.
The fourth track “22 Acacia Avenue” gives on the energy of Bruce and Iron Maiden, a very pleasurable experience.
Then comes one of the masterpiece of the album “The Number of The Beast”, the fifth track of the album. Introduced by Vincent Price (a master writer in science-fiction and horror), it starts into a grandiose shredding going up crescendo until Bruce starts with his mythical “Yeaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh!”. The archetypical Iron Maiden song, if you never heard about Iron Maiden before, this should be your first song to listen!

We continue in the apotheosis with the legendary “Run To The Hills” marking the sixth track. Damn if there is a top 10 Iron Maiden songs, this one should be in the top 5. You get into an exalting drumbeats and guitar melodics, with the story of Native Americans told by Bruce, witnessing the arrival of the European explorers and other conquistadors. Oh yeah, thats Iron Maiden baby!

“Gangland”, the seventh track is in my opinion one of the weakest track of the album, if not the weakest one. Its good but not much arousing to my ears. But this is not enough to eclipse the last track of the album “Hallowed by Thy Name”. This has to be in your top 5 Iron Maiden songs. If I have to pick one song from this all album this is the one I pick!
Great lyrics, great melodics, great everything!

[Metal/Gig] Sweet Iris/Red Beard Wall/The Ditch & The Delta/ Rozamov – Zombiez Bar @ Yellow City (03/19/2017)

Having metal gigs in Yellow City is not common, having a doom metal band performing is even rarer than a blue moon. However, that does not mean it will not happen. It is all about probability and last night it happened.
Yes, the date was awkward (Sunday for a gig is maybe not the best night to play a concert) but it was indeed a very kind gesture from the bands to stop by and play at the Zombiez Bar (the local spot for any metal gig in YC).
The gig started with Sweet Iris (?), playing some good old psychedelic rock as a warmup, giving the vibes of the early 70s scene, including early keyboard arrangements. I could not find more about the band, so if they recognize themselves please let me know.

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The second band playing was Red Beard Wall (Plainview, TX), a a skeleton crew metal band raising the potentiometer into heavier stuff and bringing on the heavy riffs as the night was settling.

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The third band to perform was the Ditch and The Delta (Salt Lake City, UT) bringing on the heavy stuff (https://theditchandthedelta.bandcamp.com/releases). The sound was becoming heavier and slower, just in time, bringing the doom metal atmosphere as the night became darker and colder.  These guys are touring around Utah and it was a pleasure to have them come in town. If you are living around Utah watch out for their gig, some good stuff. Also a kudos to the drummer, a headbanger and Trekkie fellow :).

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Finally, the “plat de resistance” was Rozamov (Boston, MA; https://rozamov.bandcamp.com). I did not realize these guys were from Boston and one of the guitarist was fairly surprised to see me harboring a “Armageddon Records” tee. It was pure coincidence when I was picking my tee prior attending the concert. I bought it when I was touring Boston last summer before attending a scientific meeting (I take a couple of hours during my scientific meetings to visit local metal records store as we have no more record shop in town, leaving Best Buy the only store selling physical copies). Finally, listening to some doom played live was worth the waiting. I have to salute the band decision to stop by YC on their way to Albuquerque (playing there this evening) and playing in town. It was heavy, slow and depressing, as you expect from any doom. Really some good stuff to try if you have been running over your Candlemass, Ahab, My Dying Bride and looking for some fresh tunes to listen, you should give them a try.

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If I had an only wish, I wished they were playing in town during a weekend evening. Starting a Monday sleep-deprived is not the best idea but honestly for the evening I had it was worth.

[Symphonic Metal] Within Temptation – The Heart of Everything 10th Anniversary

Today marks the 10th release of “The Heart Of Everything”, the fourth album from the Dutch Symphonic Metal band Within Temptation. It is a 11-track album (with two extra tracks in the North American version) totaling over a bit more than 57 mins.
This album has a special place in my heart because it marks a turning point in the band discography by several aspects.
First, I found that Sharon Den Adel, aka “Angel Voice”, reached her full potential in her vocals making it a delight to listen to her soprano voice. That settles for me Sharon with one of the most gracious voice in female-fronted metal bands. Second, the band at this point have successfully transitioned into full symphonic metal and have done a remarkable sound engineering work with the orchestral arrangements and the melodics, making always a 100% hit in my cerebral hedonistic center. In other words, it gives me an acoustic orgasm, each time i hear this album. Third, the lyrics of several tracks are just resonating so well with the tumultuous of this century and still resonate very well ten years after its release.

Let’s go through the album quickly through the track. First, we get introduced to it with “The Howling”, setting up the symphonic gunnery upfront, setting the tone for the album with a well-designed combination between the gracious symphonic elements and the guitar bass shredding.

“What Have You Done Now”, the second track is in my opinion is a weak element but plays straight into the Evanescence playlist and can be considered as a gateway vector for an audience not accustomed to listening metal bands. “Frozen” is a beautiful song and surprisingly would have been a perfect match for the movie “Frozen”, giving it a much darker tone.
“Our Solemn Hour” is one my favorite, opening on with a radio announcement of Wilson Churchill on the declaration of war, decrying the folly and insanity of human mind to war and destruction. “The Heart of Everything”, “Hand of Sorrow” and “The Cross” continues on the magic formula giving us a very strong middle section in the album.
The album then enters into less enjoying tracks (in my opinion) such as “Final Destination”,  “All I Need”. Then came the final act of this serendipitous album with two major favorites: “Stand My Ground”, “The Truth Beneath The Rose” and “Forgiven” bringing on the magic formula once again.

However if I have to pick one song that would be “The Truth Beneath The Rose” nicely orchestrated and dynamic, that is very engaging. The lyrics are straight into fighting the religious zealotry and extremism, calling on rejecting those who praise on killing in the name of the religion as a key to Heaven.

In my personal discography, this is the pinnacle album in Within Temptation’s discography (excluding the Black Symphony that is the live orchestral performance of their discography up to this album). After this album, the band decided to engage into softer stance and into something more accessible for the lay audience. Despite I don’t find the same appeal in their following releases, the band still keep a special place in my heart by being in the front of the gothic/symphonic metal first wave, with the unique voice of Sharon Den Adel.

[Symphonic Metal] Xandria – Theater of Dimensions (92%)

It has been a while since I did not posted a review on a metal album. Xandria nicely reminded me that it was long due by releasing their latest album “Theater of Dimensions”. Well, what I can tell about Xandria. I really liked their album “Neverworld’s End” fronted by Manuella Kraller. The release of “Sacrificium” and the change in line-up with Dianne Von Giersbergen (ex-Libris) now fronting was letting me skeptical. Don’t take me wrong on this one. Dianne with her prog metal band is simply awesome but I found her a bit in retreat and soft in “Sacrificium”.
I purchased the digital album containing 13 tracks for 75 minutes of some awesomess. There is a deluxe version with four acoustic if you have the extra $$$ for it. I have been running in a loop for the last 72 hours. What I can tell, we have the perfect blend of Xandria taking the best of “Neverworld’s End” and “Sacrificium”. That gives a detonating mixture.
We start with “Where The Heart is Home” bringing the bang and the bombastic symphonics with the metal, with Dianne perfect as ever unleashing her voice into this engaging first track. We rapidly follow with “Death To The Holy” that infuse Celtic influence. This is the main influence of the album, a certain Celtic feeling but also feeling like a Pirate song. Very engaging song and one of my favorites of the album.
“Forsaken Love” dig further into the Celtic influence, nice and very enjoyable ballad to listen. “Call of Destiny” brings on the same tempo than “Nightfall” and “Sacrificium”, fast-paced and heavy. “We Are Murderers” push aside the symphonic elements and put own the heaviness. “Dark Night of the Soul” brings on the enjoyment of the ballad, swinged by Dianne powerful voice. “When The Walls Came Down” brings on the heavy riffs back and the kick that make the Symphonic Metal powerful.
“Ship of Doom” was nice if you are in the mood of some pirates song, arghhh!  If you really like the Celtic tones, jump on “Ceili” blending it with metal and let chill your spine. Very engaging and refreshing to listen to it. “Song For Sorrow and Woe” was okay but not more than that in my opinion. Same as “Burn Me”. “Queen of Hearts Reborn” brings on the Xandria signature: a very delicate dosage of choirs, symphonic and heaviness with Dianne flying high pitches with a grace and an elegance.
Finally, the last track “A Theater of Dimensions”, the piece of resistance (14:24). A very nice song in three acts starting as an acoustic ballad, raising the tone with the heavy elements and riffs and adding the symphonic and getting into the same tones than Dark Sarah, giving this kind of Tim Burtonesque feel to it. A damn good song, that rides like a rollercoaster.
Xandria is back with a bang. Nicely crafting powerful melodics, choirs, heavy riffs and soprano vocals. This album settles Dianne as the perfect singer for the band, only unleashing her impressive voice. If you have never listen to Dianne singing, you have never listen to Symphonic metal. Xandria rightfully earned the title “album of the month” and makes a bang into 2017.

[Metal] Therion – Gothic Kabbalah 10th Anniversary

Today is my birthday (turning 38, Yikes!), including some other celebs such as Rob Zombie. It also turns out this day marks the 10th Anniversary of Therion thirteenth album “Gothic Kabbalah”.
The interesting thing with Therion is their ability to scramble paths and make unexpected moves. You cannot simply expect to hear the same tunes and melodics over and over, ending you discovering the band with every single albums.
This is also the case with “Gothic Kabbalah”, a 2-CD release, with 17 titles and totaling a bit more of 83 minutes.
The album is a clear departure from their previous releases, leaving the symphonic and orchestral tones of “Vovin” and “Secrets of The Rune”, navigating more into a progressive and even incorporating heavy metal tones.
It starts with “Der Mitternachtsloewe” setting the artistic tone and guesting Hannah Holgersson. It is seamlessly followed by “Gothic Kabbalah”, “The Perennial Sophia”, “Wisdom of the Cage”. “Son of The Staves of Time” is one of the official videos from the album, allowing me to share and let you appreciate the tone of the album whereas “Tuna 1603″and “Trul” failed to inspire me.

https://youtu.be/YY-EOYJQMMY?list=PL6582FC6AD17B80E2

The second CD starts with “Wand of Abaris” is really sounding like a gothic metal song and that why this is one of my favorite of the album. “Three Treasure” brings on the operatics that was the trademark of their previous releases. “Path To Arcady” has this heavy-metal tone blending nicely with the tenor and sopranos lead vocals, making another one of my favorite. “TOF – The Trinity” gets more into classical metal, nice but not more. “Chain of Minerva” brings on more a Therion-like track, whereas “The Falling Stone” brings up something faster in its pace, almost inspired by some power metal songs. “Adulruna Rediviva” is another masterpiece, some Therion safe bet. A 13:38 track that makes what Therion is Therion. The two last tracks are live performance of “Seven Secrets of the Sphinx” and “To Mega Therion”.

[Metal] A retrospective look to 2016 through my music library

2016 is wrapping up, with it a lot of moves in the metal scene. The classic cycle of life applied again to the metal scene: some bands were born, some bands artistically died but also some drama with the departure of front singers through a laconic note. What I can say that in my eyes, 2016 was a good year for music, a fair amount of good albums and  also avoided a couple of bad releases. Instead of going through a Top 10, I have decided to sort them by new artists, releases, anniversary albums and finally the albums that I avoided like plague this year.

1) The new kids in the block of 2016:
Arcadia (FRA): A new French FF symphonic metal band from my home region. I have reviewed their EP back in September.
https://youtu.be/PF3GO3DRaFk

Exalt the Throne (USA): That was the biggest surprise of 2016, as they were opening for Epica during their gig in Dallas last February. A great blend of soprano with engaging melodic death melodics. I reviewed their album “Long Live The King” back in June.
https://youtu.be/inQ1wuS5ZEs

Mercy Isle (USA): Who said that the USA was lacking FF metal bands? Mercy Isle dispel this misconception, offering a diverse and engaging first album “Undying Fire”. I reviewed this album back in November.
https://youtu.be/DSbGIf5kY4M

Midnight Eternal (USA): What would happen if symphonic metal and power metal have a offspring, with a drop of “manga” culture in it? Well it gives you Midnight Eternal and a very nice first album named “Midnight Eternal”. I reviewed this album back in November and you can check their sound here.
https://youtu.be/6zFRSctjyks

Rhenium (UK): Bands made by one person are rare, gothic metal bands made by a single person are even more these kind of rare birds. Yet that did not discovered Christina Rhenium to take the plunge and launch her first EP “Rise Above the Sea”. That gives some promising gothic metal ahead.
https://youtu.be/ZRSoN4F4A-Y

Santa Marta (USA): Technically, it is not a new band. But it is a new band formed by Mary Zimmer (ex-Luna Mortis (Ottoman Empire)/ex-White Empress). Mary brings on the primal rage, the nihilism and the sorrow that was her trademark in the previous band. Eager to see the rest coming.
https://youtu.be/YQbngOsvrHo

Thy Shade (USA): Let’s be honest, Symphonic is slowly and surely becoming a saturated genre, raising the bar higher and higher. Thy Shade is unique in her style, by taking a neoclassical approach to their style giving this majestic opera-style with guitar riffs. It got the album of the month in November and you can check the review.
https://youtu.be/3DMim1NLXUo

2) Bands that performed in town:
I have to be honest leaving in the Midwest means driving a good 2 to 5.5 hours for attending a metal concert. This was the case when I attended Epica, Nightwish and Ghost live performances. But sometimes, some small bands stop here and animate Yellow City with some good metal stuff. Two bands that caught my attention during their stop.

Scarlet Canary (CO): A small but nice rock/metal band fronted by Hannah, singing some covers and some of their songs. Bringing the fun in town, with a good dose of shot!
https://youtu.be/BSdQ97cWqqc

Singularity (AZ): They were part of a summer tour named “Make America Shred Again”, that was certainly the best band of the tour, playing some nice technical death metal and having a rad astrophysic tee 🙂


3) Bands that I discovered this year:
These are bands that have been hanging for a while but get introduced to either through some meta-projects or simply by being exposed to their material.

Ahab (GER): 2016 was certainly the year i digged into doom. But not all doom are equal, I am really in stuff that plays on the melodics. Among the band I have discovered, Ahab is just simply impressive. Melancholic and depressive. One of those albums you want to listen when life threw you lemon in a rainy and cold day, just grab them, slice them and squeeze one in your Jaegermeister to bring on the sufferance.
https://youtu.be/eK3ZlrH2ryY

Evig Natt (NOR): Evig Natt has been hanging for a while and I am still wonder how did I miss them. They are simply awesome gothic/doom metal bands that through Kirstin can percolate emotions. Their last album “Evig Natt” is a remarkable album. Want to bet how awesome they are? Listen to “Wildfire”
https://youtu.be/PfqEmgSCJtw

Gojira (FRA): You could not miss Gojira this year with their latest album “Magma”. A very nice and refined progressive death metal album, very nicely crafted that brings some variety in my library. Check them out.
https://youtu.be/iVvXB-Vwnco

Kalidia (ITA):  When I think Italy and metal, I have two bands that comes in my mind: Lacuna Coil and Rhapsody of Fire. This year, I added another band to my list: Kalidia. Fronted by Nicoletta Rossellini, they are delivering with their first album “Lies Device” delivering some nice melodics. Just check them out, you will not regret it.

My Dying Bride (UK):  My Dying Bride is surely known from any gothic metal enthusiasts, especially if you are familiar with Anathema and Paradise Lost. For some reasons that I am trying to understand, I never got proper introduced to this band until this year, although I have been listening to Anathema in their early years. I liked the early years of Anathema but then I dropped the ball as they went into a more alternative rock. In opposite, My Dying Bride maintained their gothic and doom metal influence, giving this nice melodics.
https://youtu.be/4e_c3XAPoUI

Nawather (TUN): Nawather is a Tunisian metal band that really marked my mind earlier this year with the release of their album “Wasted Years” by nicely blending their MENA  origins through the addition of the Qanun (this horizontal type of guitar played with a metallic finger tip) with metal and also by singing in Arabic.

Vivaldi Metal Project (INT): Vivaldi Metal Project was a neoclassical metal project that involved several metal artists in re-creating the Vivaldi “Four Seasons”albums that nicely blended the classical composition with a good kick of metal in it. I reviewed this album earlier this year
https://youtu.be/MRwRPYWK8XU

3) Albums that filled my disc library 

There are been several good albums that came out this year from established bands this year. I will not talk much about since they have been extensively reviewed in my blog and you go through.

Epica – The Holographic Principle: If I am correct, the best-rated album of the year. That was a damn good album, with Mark Jansen investing heavily in it making another masterpiece of my Epica library. So many good songs that I will be redundant to review them again. “Universal Death Squad” being one my favorite and you can listen to it below to assess by yourself the epic in Epica.
https://youtu.be/P_Ys_W7ySkM

Lacuna Coil – Delirium: It was certainly the best surprise of this year (with Metallica) as it was a long time since Lacuna Coil impressed me with an album (the last one that I found still enjoyable was Karmacode released…..in 2006). “House of Shame” is certainly the best track of the album, with an insane Andrea and a serendipidic Cristina, giving you this rollercoaster between euphoria and complete depression.
https://youtu.be/1o1MoG-cz9Q

Metallica – Hardwired….to Self-Destruct: 2016 was certainly the big return of Metallica after 8 years of hiatus in the production of their new album. A lot of expectations on this one as the band was split between two choices: renewing with the old fan base (thrash) or keeping on exploring new horizons (alternative metal) more accessible to the lay audience? Metallica with this album a compromise to conciliate the two camps. It was a good album, some great songs, some okay songs. The album is originally split on 2CDs, I felt it was a bit too much and could have fit in 1 CDs if the songs were kept below 5 mins each (you had the feeling that some songs were just stretched to fit over 5 mins). You can check my review on that one. One of my favorite? “Spit Out The Bone”, damn good ol’ thrash Metallica.
https://youtu.be/m46Z0-HXySo

The Agonist –  Five: Second album with Vicky Psarakis, replacing Alissa White-Gluz (Arch Enemy). Good, solid album that reinforce Vicky’s credentials to sing cleans and growls,in the direct continuation of Eye of Providence.

4) Albums that celebrated their anniversary

2016 has been a good year to mark milestones on several bands in my disc library.

10th Anniversary: Delain – Lucidity (the best album in my opinion)

20th Anniversary: Arch Enemy – Black Earth (the first album by Michael Amott following his departure from Carcass); Anathema – Eternity (a pivotal album in their discography); Therion – Theli (the album that threw the framework for Symphonic Metal).

30th Anniversary: Candlemass – Epicus Doomicus Metallicus (the first album that set up the basis for Doom Metal); Metallica – Master of Puppets (the Metallica masterpiece by its transition from thrash into the powerful guitar solo of Kirk Hammett); Slayer – Reign In Blood (pushing the limits of speed metal and also one of the release that shook the suburban moms).

5) The good, the bad and the ugly: albums that were insipid and terrible
2016 have also seen some of the most terrible releases, insipid or completely senseless. Sirenia has certainly make the major mistake to dump Ailyn as a broken doll. Karma is a bitch and honestly “Dim Days of Dolor” sounds terribly bad.
Another disappointing album was from Sonata Arctica. It was been a while since the band produced a decent album and “The Ninth Hour” is certainly not the one that will bring back the former glory. Too bad.

[Symphonic Metal] Midnight Eternal – Midnight Eternal

 

Another day, another metal album review. What I like about the metal genre is the versatility of styles you can find. You can find almost any flavors you are interested blended with metal.
Looking for epic stories? Heavy Metal. Want some rage of punk with a more constructed fashion? Thrash and Death Metal. Want classical music with some bass? Symphonic and Neoclassic Metal. More into vikings and Nordic mythology? Folk Metal!
Then you have some interesting bands that blur the taxonomy by their style and their interest. If you have a fond for video games and anime, you surely know Dragonforce (and the insane guitar riff speed from Hermann Li). Now imagine that Dragonforce (Power Melodic Metal) and Nightwish (Symphonic Metal) have a natural child: something that blends the fast-pace and video games lore of the former with the symphonic element of the later. Midnight Eternal maybe this one of this natural child, based on the continuous listening of their first album “Midnight Eternal”, a 12-songs album lasting 49 minutes.

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Midnight Eternal is a symphonic metal band from New York City, New York fronted by Raine Hilai. The album is a blending of both symphonic and melodic metal songs, alternating between each titles. If you like power melodic metal you will like it, ditto if you like symphonic metal.
Things starts pretty conventionally for a symphonic metal band with “‘Till The Bitter End”. Nice tunes but nothing much different from other symphonic bands. However, things quickly take a different turn with “Repentance” kicking in the power melodics into, making a very engaging song. The shit gets real and becomes very interesting. It has these kind of anime and video games tunes that is really is a plus and makes it unique, I have yet to find another symphonic metal bands playing in this chord.
The third title of the album is “Signs of Fire”. I will not talk much about it since there is a video for it, but this one is more surfing in the symphonic style.

The rest of the album alternate between symphonic and power melodic metal, like a rollercoaster.  “Shadow Falls”, “Believe In Forever”, “Midnight Eternal”, “Like an Eternity” brings in the power melodics, whereas “The Lantern”, “When Love and Faith Collide”, “Pilgrim and The Last Voyage” and “First Time Thrill” brings the symphonic elements.
Interestingly “Silence” and “First Time Thrill” gives me this feeling of video games soundtrack, whereas the overall rhythmics of the album reminds me a lot of opening and ending credits of anime from the 80’s and 90’s, something I grew familiarized with some J-Rock bands like Make-Up (Saint Seiya) or Crystal King (Hokuto No Ken). In my knowledge there are two metal bands that are infused with such elements, one that I hate and one that I like: Baby-Metal and Dragonforce.
The band was recently touring with Queensryche and Armored Saint and unfortunately due to health reason I could not attend their concert in town. The consolation prize being for me their album. If you like video games, anime and metal give them a try. You will like it.